An open letter to readers and friends:

cropped-kf_headshot.jpgI posted a comment on Facebook earlier in the week that was somewhat cryptic by design – I didn’t really want the comment to ripen into a retelling of an old and sad story. I posted it in a moment of pique at the propensity of some to keep bringing up unpleasant moments for all to read. Those impacted by such will take their grief to their graves; the rest of us, essentially unable to do much to assuage their feelings, look past the articles. Then, I realized that I was guilty of doing the same thing, bringing up a sad story that’s been in the books for 60 years. The post served no purpose. I write of happy things. If I don’t, which I occasionally don’t, I make no bones about it and it’s usually crystal-clear who’s in my crosshairs. But this post was unnecessarily acrimonious, so I pulled it.

I’ve lived in this burg, so far, three-fourths of a century; was blessed with a steel-trap memory and the ability to ferret facts from a variety of sources. In 35 years of writing about our town I have received, three or four times a year, “tips” from well-meaning quasi-sources to the effect of, “Hey, there’s a great story for you about a shoot-‘em-up in a motel ‘way out west (which may be offered by the tipster as east, north or south) of town, back in the 1960s (which may be ‘70s or ‘50s) and the guy took a couple sheriff’s deputies with him (which he didn’t).” Or, ” You ought to write about the gang fight (which it wasn’t) in Paradise Park (where it wasn’t either) and a judge’s son was killed (a lad was hurt, yes, but no relation to a judge).” The case in point, the topic of that comment on Facebook that I made and subsequntly pulled, was of another tip I’m offered semi-annually: “Why haven’t you ever written a column about the mother (sometimes the maid or the babysitter) who shot her three (four, seven, or more) children in the fancy house on Larue (occasionally Manor or Marsh or Sharon or Nixon or St. Lawrence) and the husband came home and found them (which he didn’t).”

The tipsters for these stories, and there are others but the three cited are the most-often suggested, are on the right track, but a mile off the facts. Sheriff deputies and Reno police reënacted the OK Corral and shot up a motel west of town, ventilating several of Wilbur May’s Modigliani paintings and fatally injuring one local man. Another was the mother of all fistfights waged by some scions of local swells, resulting in one youth being in a coma for many months and eventually passing away, too young.

I know what tale the tipsters are getting at, and have copies of the police reports and the newspaper accounts. But never wrote about them. Managing the news is not a recent trend; I think the Reno Evening Gazette and the Nevada State Journal cut a few parties a little slack, particularly in the fistfight reportage, given the involvement of some well-known local parents.

From Day One there have been for me, two litmus tests that an event must pass favorably to go into print with my byline: Does a retelling do any good?  Sometimes, sometimes not; many of our better yarns are based on actual occurrences, and assuming that if they hold the fabric of our local heritage together, they have some value. The travails of LaVere Redfield or George Wingfield make good reading so we’ll give them a “pass” on the first litmus test. I’m not sure the three occurrences cited first above would pass that test.

The second test is, does the retelling of the story hurt anyone? Here, the three events fail miserably. In the cases of the police action at the motel and the fistfight, there walk among us a number of people who have some sad or bitter memories of each, and don’t need to be reminded for all to read as being the family of those involved. The third case – the one I used in my comment last week regarding the deaths of the children – happened in a home and no purpose whatsoever would be served in facilitating the identification of the address. Neither the people who own the home now, 60+ years later, nor their neighbors, need this story coming out of the barn. It’s not a tragedy that’s unfamiliar to many longer-term local folks but shan’t be resurrected by this writer. I have some knowledge of each one, from police reports I secured and the local papers, which tangled up a couple of elements of the stories. And any student of Reno High at the time remembers the commotion taking place a few blocks from our school for the latter one.

And as bad luck would have it, my dad, a real estate man, sold the house several months after the event. Twenty years ago the topic hit the spotlight, when there was a hue-and-cry ongoing about whether State real estate licensees were obligated to advise potential purchasers of such events occurring in a listed home. I’ll let the reader ask his or her Realtor© about that.

So there you have it – an encapsulation of self-induced standards that I’ve wanted to convey many times in bygone days, after people “suggest” these three topics. Or in one case, flabbergasted me by asking me to speak at a service club about one of these three, as if tragedy is the fare of a luncheon meeting. And there are a few other urban legends arising less often, and some that I know of that are downright hilarious – but the hilarity is borne upon an occurrence that might offend a surviving relative, so they’re topics I’ll leave alone.

The sum and substance of all this is that friends come to this website for enjoyment, and that’s what it shall remain!


Ranting here is occasionally permitted: Clean up the memories, let others enjoy…!

RenoCooksFrom time to time or when the spirit moves me, whichever comes first, you will read here not an account of bygone days or friends, nor of old schools or streets or the cars that motored down them, or that insipid little six-year-old squirt on his Schwinn pedalling all over town scribing how it used to be, but the opinion of the scribe who posts this column, the scrivener who labors long nights in the lonely writer’s garret while others are out cavorting about the village. This is one of those posts…

Permit me to bring an old friend into the text, whose name is Tora Bengochea  [pictured below]. Tora emailed me a couple of months ago, with an offer of some stuff I’ll elaborate on shortly. Having her permission I’ll post an early email from her, to get all the readers into the mood:

ToraI greatly enjoyed your article about the Liberty Belle.  We ate there frequently and our daughter was fascinated by the “Ladies of the Night” pictures in the women’s restroom; hence, we would have to visit the bathroom two to three times before, during and after dinner when she was little.  She’d stand in front of them and stare in awe at them.  Cracked me up!  I’ll send the wine bottle salt & pepper shakers with a happy heart to you.  
“The Nevada Bengochea family originated from four brothers who immigrated to the Winnemucca area in the early 1900’s.  So, whomever you knew is more than likely related.  Tim and I were at the University of Nevada from 1965 to 1968, He was activated in the National Guard to “rescue the Pueblo” from the North Koreans and I continued attending.  I taught at Traner Middle School; when he returned he became a cashier and later comptroller at the Primadonna Casino.  Seems so long ago/yesterday…”

OK, here’s the gist of what Tora’s original email contained. She, like many of us, is cleaning her house of “stuff” – stuff it’s taken a lifetime to accumulate, stuff we can remember the night we purloined it out of a restaurant or won in a raffle or foundLancers in a hockshop in Seaside, Oregon and couldn’t do without. She wrote, I have a set of Lancer salt and pepper shakers, a 1968 Verdi commemorative cookbook, and the grail sought by many young housewives several – awright – five decades ago: “Reno Also Cooks” – Washoe Medical Center Womens League’s highly Verdicollectible cookbook – highly desired not necessarily for the recipes but by the daughters of the then-young women who entered their recipes in the book (and a few men, also). One of the most popular columns I once ran was a selection of those recipes, right here, I’ll put a link to it at the end of today’s Labor Day rant. And another link to my “Tombola Days” site. If I can find them.

Tora asked, “Can you find a good home for these things? They’re my treasures, and don’t belong in a garage sale or Goodwill store…?” Uhh, yeah, Tora, I think I can do that…

So she sent them to me from her home in Oregon.

I have found homes for the treasures. A lady friend of mine who grew up in Verdi has the Verdi cookbook, and a waiting list of friends who want to see it. The Lancer shakers are with a youngish friend of mine, the son of my contemporary at the Sigma Nu frat house, who now entertains often in his home (with his bride, I should add!) and dozens of his friends will see them in the coming year, and conversations will ensue. And the Washoe Med cookbook? A tough call, but it went to a lady who has an abundance of daughters and whose mother entered a recipe in the book 40 years ago, so the little book is assured of being around and enjoyed ’til perpetuity.

OK, now let the rant begin: We all have “stuff” that we’ve accumulated. In yakking this column-topic up with some friends, all agree that most of our children wouldn’t give house room to most of the “treasures” we cherish. In my own writer’s garret I look up from the paper in my Underwood standard at a cast-pewter bear from my grandmother’s house in Petaluma, Calif., that came ’round the Horn in the 19th Century from Ireland; I see a dozen cameras of all age and stripe and description – movie, still, box, better 35mm. film cameras that no one wants now; a mahogany model of a PBM Navy airplane that no one remembers; a Deitz lantern I brought home from New England on a family motor trip in 1952, and a brass spittoon embossed with an Indian chief tobacco brand that I stole from a bar downtown when I was in college, when I could still write “Indian” and spittoons hadn’t become “cuspidors” in polite society yet.

These will all go in the dumpster upon my demise, but somewhere there’s a person who wants a pewter bear from the Berne, Switzerland zoo, there’s one of the hundred men who flew a PBM in WWII, packed a Bell & Howell camera before digital cams existed or a bachelor like me who’s a bachelor because he reveres his spittoon and lantern. Somewhere, but where…? ) I gave one of my Underwood standards to Lt. Emerson Marcus, a remarkable young guy who’s the PIO for the Nevada National Guard and in my opinion if not selected as a future governor of Nevada or an Air Force four-star, someone’s missing the boat. Plus, his mommy’s cute…

So, I write today: Look around your house. Focus on one of your favorite gadgets. Cherish the memory. Then, try to picture it lying alongside a pewter bear or a spittoon in a 14-yard dumpster, because that’s where it will wind up if you and I meet our Maker around the same time frame. As I said, our kids don’t want it. Mine have my whole garret – a whole lifetime – to  deal with, and don’t want my treasures. But – somewhere, someone is itching to get that trinket of yours, and that PBM airplane of mine. Let’s make it easy for all. Look back upon the happy times that gadget has brought you, then say, “How can I be assured that it will find a home as good as the one I gave it?” Give it some thought. The Nevada Historical Society can’t find what they have now. I was offered eight old phone book cover artwork paintings, framed, that came from a friend’s dad’s office. The NHS turned them down. I found them a good, public home, where they’ll be seen and enjoyed by many, for years to come with the artists’ names affixed to them. The City of Reno, while we have a whale in our Believe Park, a Lear Theater falling down around itself, unmanned and empty fire stations and pretty murals gracing vacant buildings, does not have a museum. All wide spots in the Nevada roads have a museum. Sparks has a great museum. But don’t plan on your stuff going to the Reno Museum, ‘cuz we can’t get one together. Hell, this lonely writer’s garret is the beginning of a museum, only one of many inadvertent ones in Reno. But I’m divesting, not collecting. Anybody want a PBM bomber or a Dietz lantern?

A hat-tip here to Tora Bengochea. She did what we all should be doing. I know it tore Tim and her up to wrap up those cookbooks, and the Lancer tableware. But, many are already enjoying them, as they once did.

Who’s next?

Here’s some pages from the Washoe Med cookbook

Tombola Day’s! Washoe Med’s annual picnic





A backstory of the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympic games

BodegaI swear, for every WordPress post that I make, like yesterday’s, the Facebook responses and the “Comments” sections of the posts are outnumbered four-to-one by emails to me, which the reader doesn’t see and which defeats the fun of the post! I’m therefore writing another post about the Blyth Arena post of a few days ago, (and, as one reader wrote, is “Blyth” spelled correctly without an “e” at the end?) Yes.Blyth Arena2


“Didn’t the arena collapse after a snowstorm weighed down the roof?” Yes, in 1983 a major snowstorm struck and the snowload collapsed the arena. The backstory is that the Squaw Valley developers had wanted to raze the arena. Permission was repeatedly denied, I think by the State of California, who owned the Olympic assets in the valley. The arena had survived larger snow loads, plenty of them, but this one took it down and it was never rebuilt. End of story. Maybe.

“Did the sun really come out just before the opening ceremony?” Yes. The weather was foul, snowy, a blizzard. The doves that Walt Disney brought to be released stayed in their pens in the trailer. The band, an amalgamation of every high school in the area conducted by a music director from USC, couldn’t keep their instruments in tune against the cold air. But the spot came for the torch to be brought down the hill –  Little Papoose Peak, behind the jump hill. “Might as well…” the director said and the clouds parted, the sun broke through and Andrea Mead Lawrence carried the torch down the hill in full sunlight, no wind, and handed it off to Kenneth Henry of the UK, a speedskater who took it once around the oval  ice arena and lit the torch.

And the skies once again became cloudy…but the Olympics were underway, Richard Nixon did the prayer and Karl Malden recited the opening words.

Yes, the heavens parted…and we made some ‘firsts’ –  the first time a computer was used to tabulate scores – the first time a woman (skater Carol Heiss) took the Olympic oath for all athletes – it was the first year metal skis were permitted and Jean Vaurnet won Gold on them in Downhill, (yeah. then he went on to make sunglasses!) – we had the biggest Olympic jump hill (80 meters) – it was the first live broadcast of (segments of) a sporting event – dammit, I did a dynamite column about the Eighth Winter Games and now I can’t find it.

Another hot button for readers this weekend: Did a Russian die in the championship USA/USSR ice hockey game at Blyth Arena?

Many readers were there – in the first place, it wasn’t the championship Gold match, it was a semifinal. If they guy didn’t die, he’s still counting birdies from his shot into the wall by our goalie. The Cold War was in full swing, the US didn’t like Russia anyway and the feelings were mutual and it showed on the ice (I was working sound for NBC so had a pretty good vantage point). Their goalie had pulled some chickenshit stunts and thus paid the price. We won. And we won the Gold the next day over Czechoslovakia. It was an upset, I think that we won by a bunch of goals in the final minutes. We weren’t supposed to, but we had heart. I didn’t work that game, but heard it on our radio web.

The coolest part of the whole 1960 Olympics for many of us grunt workers was subtle: The Olympic officials, out of respect to the Czechs, cleared the scoreboard of our 9-4 win at Blyth Arena for the closing ceremony. But as soon as the flame dwindled and died and Richard Nixon called upon the Children of the World to gather four years hence in Innsbruck, Austria for the Ninth Winter Games, the stadium lights were dimmed. But all of us grunts’ eyes were on the arena scoreboard, which was then re-lit without fanfare to display “USSR – 2 USA – 3,” the score of the best match ever waged in Blyth. And we knew that a suggestion from the vanquished Russian coach helped us beat the Czechs.

And thousand of people saw the Limeliters, the Kingston Trio, Peter Paul & Mary and so many others in that venue but failed to see the Cold War symbol over their heads. which remained until Blyth Arena collapsed under mysterious circumstances on March 29, 1983.


Let’s get a bit of Midtown parking dialogue going! Write your take on this in the “comments” below….




Good Evening, Karl,

I was thinking about an old Virginia Street casino which I recall visiting with my father, the Horseshoe.  What I don’t remember and which is a curiosity to me now, is where did the customers park while visiting that place, and other similar clubs, on Virginia Street?   The same question would present itself now, I suppose, if one were to attempt to do something with those old properties along Virginia Street. 
Thanks for any comments,
[a friend]
I responded today:HaroldsPigeonhole

Hi [friend] – I peeked at my email last night about 11:30 pm and then laid awake all night thinking: Where DID we park downtown…?
Sewell’s Supermarket opened in 1949 with a big parking lot, the east half of the block between Fourth and Fifth, Sierra and Virginia – (well, almost half; the south quarter was committed to Standard Stations and a hardware store.) But it was almost unregulated parking and we used it in synch with Sewell’s customers for three decades – I heard that the clubs kicked in a buck or two to keep their lights on at night.

In addition to the clubs, there were four movie houses, all doing a pretty good business each night – the Crest, the Granada, the Tower and the Majestic. And the State Building, later the Pioneer. All generated a need for parking.

In my wakeful night, I enumerated in my mind all the parking spaces that we locals knew of, pretty much by twosies and foursies, some by a church, others behind a retail building down an alley or something like that. And there were quite a few of those.

As far as parking spaces dedicated to a specific club, pretty darn few. At some point the demographics of the downtown visitors enters the picture. Almost all downtown motels had sufficient lots for their clientele’s cars, and we developed a “sixth sense” of where we could park on their lots, by mid-week, by weather, by time of the year. Thus quite a few became available to the locals that knew the system. Some of the bigger motels, the Continental on South Virginia and the Pony Express on the Reno/Sparks line for two, had small shuttles that ran most of the reasonable hours all year. They moved a lot of people. 

The casinos started opening showrooms, and recognized a need for some sort of organized parking. Harrah’s finally built a garage, Harolds built the ill-fated pigeonhole garage but it lasted for many years. The Holiday Hotel opened in 1957 and wisely committed a huge amount of land to parking south of Mill Street, and didn’r really get too excited about policing it, and we parked there often. A serendipity moment for the Mapes Hotel was the 1953 explosion of the YMCA adjacent to it to the east, and this site was paved, never to be rebuilt upon, to the benefit of Charlie Mapes on the west and the Majestic Theater to the east. FNB opened its parking garage in 1964 and left it unrestricted in the evenings, and even the City of Reno relaxed its parking hours and enforcement – this is in a day when an entire block, both sides, was parking spaces, maybe one loading zone each side of a street, all the rest parking. The Post Office’s lot was there also, restricted but few cared!

This forms kind of a half-assed answer; the best characteristic I can venture is that if a merchant, be it a bank with multiple-stories of parking like FNB and Security on First Street, or a shoe store like Nevada Shoe Factory on Sierra with its two spaces or Montgomery Wards with about eight places on the alley, didn’t need their parking on an evening or a weekend, they left it unsupervised and available, and were never disappointed. Thus there were probably 300 places to park, plus the garages, if you knew where to look, and we did.

A final observation is that we were maybe healthier and less fearful of walking in downtown Reno, a longer distance, and might park as far south as California Avenue or as far north as the University, or west to the Gold ‘n Silver, to go downtown. Not in today’s Reno, thanks!

I hope this offers a beginning of a logical answer, but I’m not sure it will. I’m amused by the inability of the Midtown kids to figure out their parking problem. We used to go to the Sawdust Festival and Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, a tiny beach town where upwards of 100,000 people a month still visit in the summer months, brought to town by a well-organized effort using county school buses to and from pickup points. Their drivers might be costumed, a banjo band might be riding the bus with you, and you might find a cold beer or glass of Merlot under a sunshade it the parking lot when you returned. Sparks has figured that out for its special events; Reno, not so much.

I’ll probably dwell and stew on this some more, and  may bore you further in the future….

Thanks for writing…….Karl

Harolds Club pigeonhole parking garage photo scanned from early Harolds Club calendar


Baghdad1951The Arabian Nights – a 12th century fable and a 19th century state of mind.  Veiled maidens with rubies in their belly buttons darting furtively through arched portals, camels kushed outside darkened houses heavy with the odor of strong tobacco burning in a hookah and cuisine based on God-knows-what cooking in an earthen kettle; threatening-looking men with bold moustaches, loose garments and heavy scimitars at their sides, and nary a sound to be heard other than music with some unsettling tone and meter in the background.  A crescent moon – always a crescent, never full nor new – always overhead.  A disdain for westerners.  Safe haven for miscreants from all over the earth, akin to Butch and Sundance’s Hole in the Wall a thousand years later.  A foreboding night in a foreboding town.

            Baghdad.  Or, seen in many early western publications as Bagdad.

            It caught the world’s eye in the 1920s when it became capital of Iraq.  Boundaries of faraway nations meant little to us – it was all the land of Arabia to the music lyricists, fashion designers and Hollywood writers, all capitalizing on its mystique.  Few seasoned moviegoers can forget the sepia-toned scene, in Cinerama yet, when a tiny speck on the barren windswept desert appeared through a distant mirage, then inexorably, slowly, grew larger and closer to the viewer until the skirted horse and a turbaned Omar Sharif, his tattered burnoose streaming in the wind, dismounted to deliver news to (Capt. T. E.) Lawrence of Arabia.  Many regard it as director David Lean’s most memorable scene, ever.

            But why did San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner columnist Herb Caen nickname San Francisco, and later subtitle his column, Baghdad-by-the-Bay?  Baghdad and San Francisco are little alike; San Francisco built on seven hills, only forty square miles with water on three sides, but Baghdad basically level and spread out 20 times larger, its only waterfront the Tigris River; San Francisco, in a word, of breathtaking beauty while Baghdad, well, by Caen’s assessment, less so – the sparkling white minarets exist mostly in travel brochures.  Not an unattractive city, but no San Francisco.  Why was it called Baghdad-by-the-Bay by a scribe who set Bay Area trends for seven decades, until his death in February of 1997?

Right about now, in case you’re wondering what inspired this column: A reader asked me why, given my frequent references to Herb Caen, haven’t I jumped on Caen’s 50-year old reference to Baghdad.  And I point out that I welcome many former Bay Area residents to this column, who loved or hated Caen but definitely read him daily.  My simple excuse is that I figured that some other writer had already drawn attention to it, given the events of the world.  But learning of none, I’ll wrap up the explanation:

Caen drew his analogy based upon lifestyle, not the cities’ appearances or geography.  Caen’s San Francisco was a wild, wide-open city in 1951, a town with colonies of a dozen ethnic regions that lived by their own cultures unabated, a dozen tongues spoken each morning on the 30-Stockton bus line on the way downtown to work, not unlike a commute in Baghdad.  Fugitives from other climes who lived less than savory lives were left alone, so long as they didn’t cause any problems to either city’s other residents.   A large Bohemian presence thrived in both cities.  And both cities had an unsung tolerance, ranging to admiration, for their diversity and colorful characters, the colorful rising to high places in Baghdad, and respected, if not exalted, in San Francisco.  Remember, Caen coined the nickname in the 1950s; San Francisco perpetuated its no-holds-barred Barbary Coast district for a century after sailing ships gave up the ghost, and Count Marco endured as a local character well into the ‘70s.  (And note the fabled “Barbary Coast” itself is of Arabian flavor…)

            I hope I didn’t break any reader’s heart with this yarn – I was raised on Herb Caen’s stuff, and frankly do borrow, usually with attribution, some of his gimmicks like “Pocketful of notes,” “These things I like,” and “And then I wrote,” and until unraveling his rationale, thought Baghdad was a gleaming sister city to San Francisco, appearance-wise. Guess not.  But we still wish the Baghdaddies and Baghmommies all well, and if you read this last sentence Saturday morning, it’ll surprise me to no end.  [I was surprised – it ran!]

• • •

[Readers’ note: This was first published in 2003 during the early height of the Iraq war]
© Reno Gazette-Journal 2003



Heritage Bank brightens up Midtown Reno!

Heritage Bank

A day or two ago I wrote a piece about the old Union Federal Savings & Loan building on South Virginia Street, that was less-than-complimentary about its design. I pulled it at the last minute, inasmuch that it was in fact designed by an architect, I guess, who might still be with us and whose mother might read this blog.

The thrust of the story, the building’s style be damned, was a huge pat on the back of Heritage Bank, for going into that project full-bore and alleviating some of the design drawbacks of the building. So, we’ll just take the high road here, and pay compliments to Heritage Bank and its leader Stan Wilmoth,

The building went up, I’d guess about 1972, and I don’t know who the architect was. I do recall that there was a pretty good dust-up about its placement on the southwest corner of Park Lane, which had been built four or five years before. (You do remember, that there was a rather significant shopping center on the lot adjoining the Union Federal, now Heritage building northward to Plumb Lane?)

The rancher who sold some of the dirt under Park Lane to the developers, ceded to Park Lane a commitment to maintain the land occupied by Union Federal, now Heritage, as a view corridor from South Virginia Street to the new center being built. That was all well and good, but in a few years to follow the rancher said to hell with that, and sold the land to Union Fed, and all hell broke loose.

I don’t remember the eventual outcome; for as big as beef as it was then I can’t find anyone now who remembers who prevailed in this brouhaha. The fact that the building is there would suggest that Park Lane lost, but maybe some $$ exchanged hands in recompense. Couldn’t say.

Anyhoo, the building, which is most charitably described as interesting, is getting a makeover and some rockwork to break up the endless corners and angles in the front, if it is indeed the front, of the building. Thanks, Heritage Bank, for brightening up the southern edge of our little hamlet’s developing “Midtown” district.

Two points must follow: No, the building was not built of Legos, as some suggested 40 years ago, and yes, Heritage Bank, who deserves a great deal of credit for amassing and maintaining a “local heritage” library in their present quarters in the old FNB building on South Virginia, does indeed have a copy of my book, Which makes me feel very honored!

We’re forgetting a few guys…


Work progresses in site work on Foster Drive across from Reno High School on what was once the home of the Reno YMCA. The new building will be the William N. Pennington facility for the Boys & Girls Club of Truckee Meadows.  This is a wonderful thing and has been appropriately ballyhooed wherever applicable, as it should be. Pennington did a fine thing endowing this building, and was generally a good guy (we were neighbors in the 1960s before our lives took separate courses.)

But it’s mildly annoying to some, in this case, to me, that with all the fol-de-rol over the new facility, little, as in zilch, has been said about how that little piece of dirt was transformed from a dairy farm adjoining Westfield Village, to a grand new building. A few steps have been left out of that site’s journey.

The journey started back in 1952 when the original Reno YMCA, pictured, blew up, actually a boiler in the basement blew up and took the building down to ground level in one quick hurry. I watched it. That YMCA, by the by, was the next building east of the Mapes Hotel and if you don’t know where that was you probably want to leave this site and go read the Mommy Files or the Sudoku page. Reno was without its Y.

So, a group of businessmen got together once, becoming weekly, if memory serves (I was 10 years old and don’t accurately recall; I have a faint recollection of them meeting at the Trocadero Room of the El Cortez but wouldn’t swear to it.) Some names I remember were Al Solari, Del Machabee, Buddy Traynor, Conrad Preiss, Jim Morrison, Gene Gastanaga, Ed Pine, Sr., and hell of a lot of others. Oh, and a young Realtor named Karl Breckenridge. (My dad, not me.) If anybody can think of some more, lemme know; there’s a plaque around somewhere with some names but I can’t find the plaque.

Those local men got on the bandwagon to beg, borrow, and steal, well almost, the funding to acquire a piece of property for a brand-new Y building. And my dad, being a real estate man, found the property, as I recall, with Del Machabee. And they all had fundraisers, barbecues at the California Building, virtual house-to-house solicitations, tail-twisting of the school districts (there were eight in Washoe County back then.) The city government, Stead Air Force Base, the power company, Nevada Bell employees, just an incredible, damn aggressive but all-in-fun fundraiser.

And they raised the funds, and bought the land, I think from the Vhay Ranch but don’t know at this writing. I traveled with my dad for 10 days in his 1952 Buick to a dozen YMCA buildings in northern and southern California, spent nights in them, swam in their pools, while he gathered ideas for the Reno building. And, the building was indeed built, Orville Wahrenbrock was hired to run it with Dick Taylor second in command, and Tom Hardester and Steve Rucker in the P.E. department. Reno had a Y.

What the hell happened to it I can’t say; some of the Ys in California that we toured preparatory to building it still stand (it was a well-built building.) My personal opinion, which I’ve learned is shared by many guys in Reno, is that something or somebody screwed up. It doesn’t matter – it’s been torn down. And we have no Y. And a new building is going up on its former site, a new building with a flagship name.

But, ya know what? There’s a long list of once-prominent people who did a great deal of work, and personal commitment, and personal expense, to get that site. But I don’t look to see their names being bandied about when the new youth club opens a year from now.

If they are, they’ll probably be right alongside Anna Frandsen Loomis’ name on the Lear Theater – my friend Anna who endowed the Christian Science Church in 1938, later the Lear, getting the same credit that Machabee, Solari, Pine, Breckenridge the Elder, and all the others will be getting on Foster Drive – none.

(Photo credit to “” on the web, it’s an old postcard that half of Reno has in their collections but I couldn’t find mine.)

Staying close to West Fifth and Keystone, we see…

Safewayp>While I was capturing the Cue & Cushion et al seen in the previous post on film, (actually on digital, but that lacks the certain je ne sais quoi of film that this site is built upon), I strayed a block to the east, to Vine Street, and took a picture of what in its day was a Safeway, not just a Safeway but the greatest most modern Safeway in Reno or Sparks (akin to the one on Mt. Rose and South Virginia Streets), which now is obviously sunk into the depths of Reno’s slums.

The new (1962) Safeway was the bee’s-knees in shopping, replacing the old favorite Santa Claus Market a block to its north on Vine Street, that little rock market that received its name because it never closed, even on the day when Santa Claus came to Reno.

The Safeway pictured was the pride of northwest Reno, as I said in an earlier post a part of town then developing rapidly. Times changed and the Safeway closed, to become a home improvement store for many years, later an auto parts store, and now a piece of crap taking up space in what should be, and was, a nice part of our city. No opinion here, just a wish that things could be different. It’s a good and viable corner, but alas, yet another reminder of the rapidity with which the premier locations become mere embarrassments

A dog’s life


This is a re-do of the post that went with this photo of the supine canine on Chestnut Street in San Francisco. The animal shown, a large dog, is alive; we think. A beautiful animal indeed . ’nuff said

Another old University of Nevada friend bites the dust…

Getchell 2getchelllibrary copy
Well, they’re doing it again – tearing down a building that many of us watched being built during our University of Nevada matriculation and one that we visited thereafter, quite often. A couple of them were saved – and I’ll modestly take a bit of credit for calling the regents a bunch of damn ungrateful fools in a column, for coming thhhhiiis close to tearing down the Fleischmann Atmospherium-Planetarium, and taking the name “Jot Travis” off the student union center – a building built in 1958 in honor of Ezra “Jot” Travis, endowed by his son Wesley upon Wesley’s death in 1952. The Planetarium, named for the parents of university benefactor Max C. Fleischmann, was on the endangered list in favor of some dingbat building. It still stands. Moral being, don’t give your fortune to the University – they’ll spend it and in a period of time, demolish it for some younger guy’s endowment. And you and your wife’s name (and your contribution!) will soon go by the wayside.

Now, another building is going, going, soon to be gone – the Noble H. Getchell Library opened in 1962, two years after Noble Getchell’s death, to replace the Clark Library, a building still in use today as the Clark Administration Building. In days past, honored names, like William Clark’s, also a miner, were more revered than they are today. We, as undergraduates and “we” being every able-bodied soul attending the U, hauled the Clark’s inventory of library books, box-by-box, from the Clark up the (then) main drive for re-shelving in the new Getchell Library. The Getchell was a beautiful, modern building, bright, airy and welcoming (still is). Noble Getchell was a miner, and beat the drum for all the Nevada miners to support the University which then had a Mackay School of Mines, not “earth-sciences,” whatever those are – euphemisms abound on the Hill – the “Hill” itself a bygone term of endearment for the U. Getchell, like John Mackay before him, contributed mightily to our school. (In fairness, the mining industry went flat about the time the Nevada miners would have started to fund the library and Getchell and the others couldn’t endow it as he’d hoped to. But, he tried, and name “Getchell” will soon depart from the memory of the University of Nevada.)

You may bid the Getchell Library goodbye – apparently it couldn’t be converted to another use in this cash-rich Nevada university system (the tale is that it’s built with student funds. Students, as we know, have a lot of spare cash lying around to build buildings with.) I wonder if this occurs at other universities – the destruction, whether they pull it off or not, as in the case of the Jot and the Planetarium – look-out the Campanile at UC Berkeley, surely taking up a lot of room that could better be used for parking, or the Hoover Library at Stanford, or that damn ol’ Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, right in the middle of what could be a solar array for campus power, or Crisler Arena at Michigan – definitely showing its age. The Tables Down at Morey’s, and the Place where Louie Dwells back east in the Ivy League.

The Getchell served us well for half a century. Thanks, Noble…